Te Puke students will get an early start to the school holidays, with all the town and surrounding areas' schools closed tomorrow.

The day off for students doesn't translate to a rest for teachers, though.

Instead, teachers and staff from the 11 schools in the Te Puke Community of Learning - Te Kāhui Ako ō Te Puke, will have a day of networking, professional development and sharing of experience and ideas.

There are communities of learning across the country bringing together schools, early learning centres and the community, and others have held similar days where teachers and staff all met up.


In Te Puke, teachers got together for a day at the Orchard Church last year.

But tomorrow's conference will be on a much larger scale with almost 400 registrations drawing in not just teaching staff, but agencies, Ministry of Education staff, iwi, the Police and a whole range of representatives from the wider community.

''We did have a teacher-only day at the Orchard last year. That one we did on a weekend so it didn't interrupt school and it also meant that our early childhood education (ECE) staff could all come,'' says Te Puke Intermediate School principal Jill Weldon, who is Te Kāhui Ako ō Te Puke lead principal.

None of the 22 ECE learning centres in Te Puke will close tomorrow, although some staff will be at the conference.

The Ministry of Education is supporting the conference with staff who are connected and associated with Te Puke's schools and community, or who work in key areas of education.

''We anticipated about 200 [registrations] but ended up with just under 400 – word got out,'' says Jill.

The day will be bookended with keynote speakers Mere Berryman and Ann Milne who are world leaders in education.

In between there will be a series of breakout sessions and workshops.


''These have come from either pockets of excellence within our schools, or things that people have asked to know more about,'' says Ange McAllister from Fairhaven School who is on the lead team.

One of the central issues being examined by Te Kāhui Ako ō Te Puke is the retention of Māori and Pacific Island students beyond Year 11.

''While our focuses are for Māori, we know if we get that right, it's going to help our Pasifika kids - it's going to help all our kids,'' says Jill. ''We've got that big focus, and everything else is connected to it.

''People requested, for example, science and requested maths, so we've made sure we've got a presentation on everything that was requested – but through the lens of cultural relationships for positive pedagogy (practice),'' says Jill.

The majority of breakout sessions will be led by teachers from the Community of Learning schools.

''I think we realised that, up until now, we have invited experts in to speak, but that there is a whole lot of expertise within the school community and we wanted to celebrate that and share expertise that way,'' says Te Puke High School deputy principal Polly Thin-Rabb who is a member of the lead team.

''We also have a close relationship with the University of Waikato because they support us in this work so we've got several people who are doing workshops around that work of cultural relationships for positive pedagogy (practice).''.

Te Kāhui Ako ō Te Puke has a pyramid structure with a lead group made up of six teachers, headed by Jill. The flow of information is facilitated by within-school leaders, with at least one in each school.

''I think it's important to acknowledge our within-school leaders who work closely with the leadership team in regards to their role in communicating what we are doing as a lead team,'' says lead team member Olivia Parata from Te Puke Primary School.

''The within-school leaders also play a vital part in keeping their schools up to date with what we are doing.''

There is also a steering committee that provides guidance made up of the schools' principals, iwi, ECE and board of trustees representation.

''We've had people say to us that what makes our Kāhui Ako different to others they have been involved with around the country is the involvement of our iwi and the guidance from kaumātua from the very get go - they have been part of building this,'' says Tatai Takuira-Mita from Fairhaven School's Māori Immersion unit, Toitoi Manawa o Fairhaven.

''The cultural relationships we have with the kids and their whānau is what underpins most of this mahi [work].''